Chris Smalling says he enjoys a “very good relationship” with Jose Mourinho, despite the Manchester United coach's clear criticism over the defender’s shortcomings.
The Portuguese boss has outwardly not been moved by the number of games the England trio - Smalling, Luke Shaw and Phil Jones have missed this season, repeatedly questioning if some of his players have the right mental attitude.
Mourinho once called out directly to Smalling and Jones to “be brave” when they were sidelined during the Red Devils’ demanding April schedule.
But Smalling insists there is no discord with Mourinho, telling Sky Sports News HQ: “We speak very closely with the manager and we have got a very good relationship.
“All throughout my injury we spoke about the process and when I would be back so it is good that the manager wants you because ultimately he has got that decision of whether you play or not.
“You can take positives from it in that the manager wants you out on that pitch. He wants you to represent him and be that fighter and warrior for him.”
Smalling was, though, determined to make it clear he is as frustrated as anyone by his time out of the side.
“Obviously with a knee injury there are certain protocols that need to happen,” he said.
“With the medical staff and with the coaches, we are pushing all the time. As players we don’t want to be sitting on the touchline or watching the games in the directors’ box. That is no fun.
“We have pushed as much as we can and I am glad to be back.”